Dharma: What do we even mean by this?
As in any lexicon, words shift and shape into multiple meanings. Lets unpack the origin, and evolution of a word or phrase we use interchangibly and effortlessly, throughout this blog.
Firstly, the aspirated letter is “A name of Bhrama” or “Virtue, moral merit.” This is the first place to begin. With the word, concept, and noun.
According to Monier-Williams, dharma was first seen in the Rig Veda, as “that which is established or firm, steadfast decree, statue, ordinance, law”…moving into a usage that is more about “customary observance, or prescribed conduct, duty; right, justice.” Then moving along in the Atharvaveda becoming “Law or Justice personif(ied) sic.” So in the early days, pre-Buddhist the term, was more concerned with law, and interaction with one’s duty. In an Upanishad it then starts to become more of “associating with the virtuous; religious abstraction, devotion.” This is were we see the confluence between law, and religious devotion, and virtuousness. As in, ‘following the spiritual path as personal duty’.
With the formation and codification of the Pali Cannon, the term ‘dharma’ becomes; “the law or doctrine of Buddhism (as distinguished from the sangha or monastic order).” So when speaking about “The Dharma” it becomes “the teaching” of the Buddha, that one then takes refuge, (“the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Buddha”).
This blog concerns itself with the women in history that have studied, practiced and taught “The Dharma” of Buddhism, in addition to those women who have followed their dharma, spiritual purpose, or personal law to their fullest extent. In this context, we all have our dharma, as included in the universe of things. The universe itself has its own dharma, and we are also included in that. Neither of which are mutually exclusive of each other
Hopefully, as we move forward it now that makes more sense. Ultimately, there is a lot of wiggle room here for us to explore within this context as we learn about these insightful and dedicated women, and a ways to go to learn from them, hopefully in their own words.